As an experienced Internet user, you’re aware that fraudulent websites can be significant threat vectors. You probably know that such websites can steal sensitive information like your usernames, passwords, addresses, and credit card data. They can even hijack your clicks or infect your system with malware. That’s why you’re extra careful when browsing the Internet.
A padlock is not a security guarantee
You check to see if a website has a padlock encryption sign and ensure that you’re on the correct URL. But did you know that even if you enter the right URL in your browser’s address bar, you may still end up on a fraudulent website?
While you should always look for a padlock sign, don’t take it as a security guarantee. An SSL/TLS certificate only means that communication between your computer and the website is shielded from outside threat actors. It doesn’t protect you if the website is the threat actor itself. Phishing websites can obtain genuine or free certificates in minutes.
How does pharming work?
With pharming, you can end up on a malicious website even if you type the correct URL. Naturally, you must be asking: what is pharming and how do I stop it from attacking my browser? The word pharming is a combination of the words phishing and farming. It’s a cyber attack that uses complex techniques to manipulate and redirect your web traffic.
- Pharming malware: Pharming malware infects your computer and sneakily modifies your hosts files. Your computer maps connections between IP addresses and domain names through ASCII text files called a hosts file. The hosts file carries IP addresses and domain names. Pharming malware changes domain names to malicious websites. Advanced pharming malware will also block known cybersecurity websites to stop you from getting help after a cyberattack.
- DNS poisoning: Usually, DNS poisoning targets the companies that run DNS servers. By modifying DNS data, hackers can redirect thousands of people to malicious websites. DNS poisoning can also be used against your router at home. A hacker may manipulate your router’s cache and force connected devices to end up on fraudulent platforms.
How do I shield myself from pharming attacks?
The good news is that the proper steps can protect you from pharming attacks. Although there are many steps to follow, they can also protect you from other malware like viruses, worms, ransomware, spyware, and other potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).
- Set a long and complex password for your router and WiFi network to stop hackers from employing local DNS poisoning attacks.
- Use a good anti-malware program that’s proactive and uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify emerging threats such as pharming malware. Download a browser extension like Browser Guard as your second line of defense to block websites that may use pharming to attract traffic.
- Download a highly rated password manager to enter your login credentials on websites instead of entering your usernames and passwords yourself. A fraudulent website will find it more challenging to trick a password manager because, unlike you, a password manager doesn’t rely on visual clues to identify a website.
- Continue to be watchful even after you enter the correct URL. Look for signs of a fraudulent website, such as skewed images, spelling and grammatical mistakes, and unusual popups.